Coast Gun Owners Blast Ballistic Fingerprinting Idea - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

10/17/02

Coast Gun Owners Blast Ballistic Fingerprinting Idea

When a gun is fired, the bullet and cartridge case pick up markings that are unique to that gun. That distinct marking is called the gun's "fingerprint". There's renewed interest in requiring gun makers to register the markings in a national database.  If a crime is committed involving a weapon, police can use the information to trace the gun back to the original buyer.

Kevin Riley runs a Dad's Super Pawn in Gulfport. His store carries more than 500 guns. Riley believes ballistic fingerprinting won't work.

Riley said "You have wear and tear. You have different ammunitions you're going to shoot, dirt, or just the natural progression. It's not like the fingerprint on your hands that remain all your life.  This gun fingerprint will change with time".

Riley also says a gun can be altered to change its unique markings. He said "It's easy to change out the barrel, the firing pin, all the mechanisms of the gun, which essentially creates a brand new gun".

Gun owner Michael Clyburn agrees. He says ballistic fingerprinting won't help authorities catch criminals.

Clyburn said "Most people that go out and shoot other people with weapons, or commit crimes with weapons, they're not going to buy one and register it. And the markings would be no good if the gun's stolen, or they buy it from someone who did steal it. Police can go back to the person that bought it and if they say my gun was stolen, how is that going to hunt anybody down"?

WLOX-News spoke to an ATF agent with the Biloxi field office. Ed Litaker said "Ballistic fingerprinting will give us another tool in fighting crime. It will help us match the bullet to the weapon it was fired from, and perhaps lead us to a suspect. We understand it's not a cure-all for crime."

Gun owner Michael Clyburn says the plan would just waste time and taxpayer's money. He said "It's useless, just pouring money away. Put the money into gun education, and teach kids about guns and stuff. I think it would work a lot better off ".

Even though the White House is asking ATF officials to study ballistic fingerprinting, President Bush did raise some concerns this week. He's worried about the technology's accuracy and gun owners' privacy.

By: Trang Pham-Bui

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